The hypocrisy of Pegasus
Pegasus, the mythical winged divine horse, is one of the most recognized creatures in classical Greek mythology. Being the offspring of the Olympian god Poseidon, Pegasus is depicted as a pure, good hearted and gentle creature, somewhat naive, but always eager to help.
Being a tool of oppression and surveillance, when the Israeli government and the Israeli NSO group develops a spyware software under the same name, it is a disgraceful display of hypocrisy. While Pegasus was an icon of pureness, divinity and good-heartedness - this software would probably, by most people, be considered to be the exact opposite.
The protection of citizens is important. However, history shows us that if you give people access to a tool with strong surveillance capabilities, they will abuse it more often than not. Naturally, this is exactly what has happened with Pegasus, with a list of scandals and abuse being linked to the software:
- WhatsApp surveillance of a number of activists, journalists and bureaucrats in India.
- Use by the Mexican drug cartels, targeting Mexican journalists.
- Used to track and kill journalists.
- Used to track politicians, prime ministers and public figures.
- A leak of a list of over 50 000 phone number believed to have been identified as those of people of interest by clients of NSO.
These are just some of the uncovered scandals. Most likely, the problem is far greater and much worse than anybody suspects.
As a response to the leaked 50 000 phone numbers, Amnesty International and Forbidden Stories, who originally obtained the data, have shared this information with a total of seventeen news outlets all over the world. An investigation dubbed Project Pegasus is now being carried out and involves 80 journalists from the news outlets that took part of this data.
Their investigation thus far suggests that Pegasus continues to be widely used by authoritarian governments to spy on human rights activists, journalists and lawyers worldwide - although NSO says that it is only intended for use against criminals and terrorists.
There is now conclusive evidence that Pegasus was used by governments to not only monitor criminals, but also hundreds of business executives, religious figures, academics, NGO employees, union officials and government officials, including cabinet ministers, presidents and prime ministers (source: Wikipedia).
NSO responded to the report by saying that it rigorously vetted its customers human rights records before allowing them to use its spy tools.
The hypocrisy runs deep.
The core problem is the Internet itself. With no de-facto standard for cyber security or network protection, viruses and trojans run rampant on the network. However, an intermediate communication layer that can analyze and filter traffic locally, has the potential to resolve this.
How could Unigrid and Internet 2.0 combat spyware such as Pegasus?
Luckily, we can combat known spyware in the future and maybe even employ machine learning to detect new threats. When running a secondary communication layer such as Unigrid, we can filter and sniff traffic on the local daemon - if something is detected, we can then inform the end-user that something malicious might have been detected and that they should be careful.
Together with the fact that everything on the network is encrypted and communication is completely anonymized, it also becomes a lot more difficult to target specific devices or persons.
With the auto-updating functionality of Unigrid, the network would also be able to effectively and quickly respond to changes and counter-measures employed by the spyware creators.
Join us! Together we can create a new infrastructure for the world, combating surveillance, oppression and the lack of security on the Internet.